Currently in Canada there are over 4,500 people waiting to be matched with a suitable organ donor. At present those who do receive a donation must first be matched for blood type and antibodies, and then the recipient must take anti-rejection drugs to prevent their immune system identifying the donor organ as a threat. A new study in rats may offer a glimmer of hope for revolutionizing organ transplants.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburg have successfully been able to transplant hind limbs from one type of rat to another without the use of anti-rejection drugs. To do this the team harnessed a trick used by cancer cells to remain undetected by the immune system. They created a microparticle that releases CCL22, a signaling protein produced by cancer cells and used to attract specialized cells in the immune system to mark the cancer cells as ‘self’. In the case of the transplanted limbs the recipient rats were injected with the microparticles, their immune systems then marked the donor limb cells as ‘self’ rather than a threat that needs to be attacked.
This is such a breakthrough because the rats did not require anti-rejection drugs at all in order to accept the limb as ‘self’, just the administration of microparticles. If the same approach could one day be used in humans too it would reduce the risks of anti-rejection drugs, such as increased risk of cancer and infections. However, it is worth noting that this is still a long way off, and will require a great deal of additional research to ensure it safe and effective.
Source: Science News
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